Friday, October 30, 2020

We’re going to have a full moon for Halloween this year. What could possibly go wrong?

Election Night results

We’ll pass along next week’s election results once we’ve gathered them all—which can be a challenge for results from some parts of the state. If you live in one of those areas that might be considered “underserved” by the online news, please consider emailing your local CA and DA election results to [email protected] to make sure we don’t miss any races. Thanks!

TDCAA business meeting & elections

TDCAA’s annual business meeting and regional director elections will take place by Zoom on December 2,2020, at 10:00 a.m. For more details, see our original notice in last week’s update.

Masks at the polls

Who knew voting season could be so busy for certain lawyers? The lawsuits and challenges are being filed and ruled on faster than we can keep up with them, but one to keep an eye on is the legal ruckus over masks at polling places.

Earlier this week a federal district judge struck down the portion of the governor’s current emergency order exempting polling places from the list of locations at which someone can be required to wear a mask. However, that order was quickly stayed by the Fifth Circuit as it considers whether to take up the issue. In addition, we have the complicating factor of possible electioneering violations for those who do wear campaign-themed masks into a polling place. All of this could flare up again on Election Day, so make sure your county election administrators are all on the same page regarding this topic, keeping in mind that erring on the side of letting someone vote is generally the safest choice from a litigation avoidance perspective.

Right to jury trial challenged

If you haven’t already read this morning’s TDCAA Case Summaries, click HERE and be sure to read In re State of Texas ex. rel. Kim Ogg, in which the 14th Court of Appeals allowed a local Harris County Court-at-Law judge to deny the State its right to a jury trial under CCP Art. 1.13(a) under the aegis of the current Texas Supreme Court emergency order authorizing trial courts to suspend various “procedures” during the pandemic disaster. As noted in that case summary, the Court of Criminal Appeals has stayed matters until it can potentially take up the issue, but this bears watching closely. Among the many things on our list of potential coronavirus consequences, “ending the State’s right to a jury trial” was not one of them!

Coronavirus resources

All our COVID-19 resources—including sample motions and orders, helpful information, and past updates like this one—are available at Recent additions include a bevy of orders, forms, and procedures created by Travis County for conducting grand jury proceedings remotely. Click HERE see what they have been using to build that new mousetrap.

If you or someone in your office has something you would like to share with your peers, consider emailing it to Shannon for inclusion on our resources page.

And then there were … seven?

As we near Election Day, the number of legislators declaring their presumptive desire to be the next Speaker of the House is increasing exponentially. There are now seven House members—four Rs and three Ds—who have expressed an interest in being the top dog in the lower chamber. No one has a bead on who the likely front-runner is at this point, so don’t bother asking us; however, that could change by this time next week. Stay tuned!

Interim FRIs

No new legislative FRIs (Formal Requests for Information) were issued this past week; if you want to know how to submit something to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in response to the FRIs it issued last week, contact Shannon by email for more details.

Mental health law conferences

There will be two opportunities to get free training on mental health issues next month.

The Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health will host its 3rd Annual Judicial Summit on Mental Health on November 9­–10, 2020. The program will be offered online and is free for those who pre-register. More details are available HERE.

The Texas Tech Law Review is hosting its biennial Mental Health Law Symposium via Zoom on November 20, 2020. This MCLE program is free, but attendees must pre-register online. For more details, click HERE.

Key Personnel & Victim Assistance Coordinators Conference

Our 2020 KP & VAC Conference will be held online next month. This year’s training is FREE (yay!), but it will be available for viewing only on Thursday, November 12, 2020, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The morning program will feature traditional presentations, while the afternoon will consist of a live online forum where experienced panelists will be available to answer attendees’ questions. Please refer your KP and VAC staff to for more registration information.

Quotes of the Week

“Your constitutional rights are not voided simply because of a pandemic.”
            —Governor Greg Abbott (R), on why he exempted polling places from mask mandates.

“The city of Austin is a disaster, if you haven’t been there, a great city now one of the most dangerous cities in America and definitely in Texas. We have already been talking with the Governor and I talked with others about taking over Austin, the state taking over policing in that city and if that is the plan that will be a high priority bill for the senate to pass.”
            —Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), at a recent “Back the Blue” campaign event held in Houston, where the per capita murder rate through June of 2020 is still double that of Austin. (But hey, did we mention that it’s campaign season?)

“It’s not that we overfund police; it’s that we underfund community-based violence prevention. You can’t just arrest your way out of violence, but you also can’t just program your way out of it either.”
            —Thomas Abt, senior fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., as quoted in a story about conflict resolution efforts in Chicago.

“You have to wonder whether only two schools can produce all the members of the Supreme Court. There is some value in having geographic diversity and diversity in experience and education.”
            —Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond professor who studies the Supreme Court, in an article discussing the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett (Notre Dame Law School, Class of 1997), who will be the lone SCOTUS justice who did *not* attend Harvard or Yale Law Schools.